How Stress Can Lead to Substance Abuse in Teens – and How to Prevent It

Stress is no fun. Regardless of your age, it can lead to reckless behaviors you wouldn’t normally adopt. However, for teens, stress can be particularly dangerous as young adults haven’t yet built up the skills to combat stress in healthy ways. Stress infringes upon their self-control, both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, the more stress someone feels, the more likely they are to cave into their self-sabotaging desires and abuse substances.

Most teens report their number one stressor is academic pressure, in addition to parental stressors, friend stressors, and the general trying-to-learn-how-to-be-a-teenager stressors that we are all too familiar with.

Stress can be a trigger that prompts substance misuse and abuse. Relying on substances to cope at a young age could alter the course of a teenager’s life – The Center for Addiction explains that people who don’t misuse substances prior to the age of 21 are much less likely to do so later on in their life.

So, if we don’t want our teens to turn to substances, what are healthy ways American teenagers can cope with their stress? Some handle their stressors better when they have the company of other people to distract them while others process their feelings better alone. We’ve compiled some tips for both introverts and extroverts who are looking for healthy ways to cope with stress. Scan these lists over and determine which might be appropriate to consider for you and your teen. Remember, modeling healthy lifestyles for our children can help them learn how to mimic them and build the foundation for a happy, healthy life.

For those who wish to process externally:

  • Therapy
    • Therapy is a fantastic way to talk about your feelings with an objective professional who is trained in emotional conditioning. Specifically with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, therapists allow you the freedom to discuss all your stressors and help you work through them instead of letting them consume you. To find a therapist that fits your needs, visit
  • Support Groups
    • As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, stress is no fun. The good thing about stress, however, is that no one is immune to it. No one on this Earth will live without experiencing some form of stress. Despite the different catalysts of stress, we all experience the same chemical reaction in our brain, which means we can lean on each other for support. You can find plenty of support groups online, but local communities will often organize in-person events. Whether it’s an addiction meeting, a grief counseling session, or just a straightforward support group, there is always help. You are never alone.

For those who wish to process internally:

  • Exercise
    • Proven by doctors all over the globe, exercise is one of the best ways of handling stress. Putting your body through physical stress often distracts from the mental and emotional stress that has been filling your brain. Instead, your brain will be full of natural endorphins that have the ability to relieve pain and help you sleep better.
  • Meditation
    • Meditation forces people to quiet the racing thoughts in their mind and focus on nothing but their breath. This slows down the nervous system and calms both the body and the mind. The Journal of the American Medical Association says meditation can lower anxiety, depression, mental and physical pain, and our favorite, stress.

While stress is certainly no fun, it’s impossible to live life without it. Supporting teens as they learn how to cope with stress earlier on in life will help them develop healthy and long-lasting stress relief strategies.

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